UN General Assembly adopts resolution establishing Srebrenica Genocide Day; Pakistan backs

UNITED NATIONS, May 24 (APP): With Pakistan supporting, the UN General Assembly Thursday adopted a resolution designating 11 July as the International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica, in which at least 8,372 Bosnian Muslims were killed by Bosnian Serbs, thousands displaced and whole communities destroyed. Over strong Serbian objections backed by their allies, The text, sponsored by Germany and Rwanda, was adopted by a vote of 84 nations in favour, 19 against and 68 abstentions.

Adopting the resolution, the Assembly also asked the Secretary-General to establish an outreach programme on the Srebrenica genocide in preparation for the 30th anniversary next year. Explaining Pakistan’s vote, Ambassador Munir Akram highlighted the huge Srebrenica tragedy, saying the United Nations must remain resolute in its commitment to preventing the recurrence of the genocide in Srebrenica and Rwanda. “The international community must remain vigilant in detecting and responding to any signs of a similar pattern of targeting ethnic groups or religious minorities which are being manifested in certain states today, the Pakistani envoy said, in an obvious reference to Palestine and Kashmir.

“This tragedy was among the most appalling episodes in recent human history and was acknowledged as ‘genocide’ by both the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). “There was a clear legal determination by the ICJ to establish the commission of the crime of genocide in Srebrenica in July 1995.” Ambassador Akram said numerous OIC resolutions have underscored the 57-member body’s steadfast support for maintaining the unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty, and international standing of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “This support is grounded in the commitment to uphold Bosnia and Herzegovina’s internationally recognized borders, fostering its ability to function autonomously, fulfill its international obligations, and preserve its multiethnic, multicultural, and multi-religious character.”

Thursday’s UNGA resolution also condemned any denial of the Srebrenica genocide as a historical event and called on Member States to preserve the established facts, including through their educational systems, towards preventing denial and distortion, and any occurrence of genocide in the future. The massacre in Srebrenica marked one of the darkest chapters of the war that erupted after the breakup of former Yugoslavia. In July 1995, the Bosnian Serb army overran Srebrenica, which was previously declared a safe area by the UN Security Council, and brutally murdered thousands of men and teenagers there, and expelled 20,000 people from the town. A small and lightly armed unit of Dutch peacekeepers under the UN flag were unable to resist the Bosnian Serb force.

The brutal killings of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica by the army of Republika Srpska was recognized as an act of genocide by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as well as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, welcomed the resolution as “further recognition” of the victims and survivors, and their pursuit of justice, truth and guarantees of non-recurrence. “The resolution is all the more important given the persistent revisionism, denial of the Srebrenica genocide and hate speech by high-level political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as in neighbouring countries,” he said in a statement. He also underscored the responsibility of political leaders in the region to engage in constructive dialogue to build peaceful societies “where people can live safely and freely, without discrimination or fear of conflict and violence”. Introducing the draft resolution, German Antje Leendertse said that the initiative was about honouring the victims and supporting survivors, “who continue to live with scars of that fateful time”. The text is modelled on the General Assembly resolution that designated 7 April as the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. “It also underscores the role of international courts in fighting impunity and ensuring accountability for genocide, and contains language against genocide denial and glorification of perpetrators,” she added. The German envoy also spoke against “false allegations”, stating that the resolution “is not directed against anybody”.

“Not against Serbia, a valued member of this Organization. If at all, it is directed against perpetrators of the genocide,” Ambassador Leendertse added. “I therefore invite everybody to judge the text on its merits and to support our call to commemorate and reflect on what happened in Srebrenica almost thirty years ago.” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic labelled the text “highly politicized” saying it would “open a Pandora’s box”. The draft resolution “was hidden” by its authors, he said, adding that it lacked an inclusive process compared with “the resolution for Rwanda”, which was prepared in a “very transparent way”. He recalled discussions over the issue at the Security Council in March.

“When we wanted to discuss the bombing of Serbia in 1999, they said to us ‘don’t look at the past, look at the future – it happened 25 years ago’. Two days after that, we found out that they were preparing this kind of resolution relating to events even four years prior to [1999],” he said. “When they have some needs – political needs, they can go deep into the past. When someone else is referring to the past, in that case the facts – they don’t matter.” With verdicts and convictions already delivered through the judicial process, the resolution would now only deepen divisions and lead to instability, President Vucic added. “This is not about reconciliation, not about memories, this is something that will just open an old wound and create complete political havoc. Not only in our region, but even here, in this hall”, he argued. Russia’s Nebenzia called the resolution’s adoption “a Pyrrhic victory for its sponsors,” saying if their goal ”was to divide the General Assembly … then they’ve succeeded brilliantly.”